Bob Woodruff: Marketing Casualty

“ABC World News Tonight” co-anchor Bob Woodruff has lived through a journalist’s worst nightmare: becoming collateral damage in covering a dangerous story. The exact extent of his injuries caused by that roadside bomb near Taji, Iraq, and a precise prognosis won’t be known for a while.

But this much is known. Woodruff is a serious journalist who didn’t want to be another attractively glib talking head. Not unlike his predecessor, the late Peter Jennings, he wanted to get out of the office and into the big stories of the day. He wanted to report, not just announce, the news.

Other anchors are doing it more too. This isn’t the Chet Huntley era any more.

But neither is it the Ernie Pyle epoch, when war had discernible front lines. Woodruff was covering an insurgency without rules of engagement – where highways are the front lines and anyone can be unfair game. He was also a tempting kidnap target.

But make no mistake, Woodruff was also a promotional extension of “ABC World News Tonight,” which has been a ratings’ laggard for a while. He was rotating on and off the anchor set with Elizabeth Vargas. But Iraq isn’t New Orleans, West Virginia – or even Iran.

Bob Woodruff is an excellent journalist who was severely injured doing what serious journalists do: getting a first-hand look at the news being reported.

But he’s also a casualty of the network marketing wars.

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